Category Archives: Uncategorized

David Renaud’s “The Morning After”: You Can Leave Your Hat On

Director David Renaud, right, offers instruction to actors Kincaid Walker and Steve West.

Director David Renaud, right, offers instruction to actors Kincaid Walker and Steve West.

“The Morning After” is an intriguing film — but no more intriguing than David and Mia Faith Renaud, the couple who produced, directed and co-wrote the 14-minute short.

“Morning” is cute and sexy. It is quirky and real. There’s even a musical number dropped into the heart of it. One critic called it “the most feel-good infidelity and STD movie you’ll see all year.” And the only clothing that one of the main characters ever wears is a hat and one sock.

“This film is a sort of homage to the beginning of our relationship,” said Mia. What? Were infidelity and gonorrhea involved?

Um, no. “It’s more like, something unexpected happens, and it changes your life dramatically,” said David. And Mia added: “Everybody needs passion in their life. It makes us do crazy things, but fulfills us in ways that nothing else can.”

Mia Faith Renaud carries her daughter on set.

Mia Faith Renaud carries her daughter on set.

A whirlwind romance that began seven years ago at the DC Shorts film festival in Washington, D.C., was the spark for the Renauds. David, who had a medical practice in Toronto, was showing his first short film, “The Getaway,” a hobby project made with the assistance of his best friend, Canadian actor Sean Clement. It won the festival’s Audience Choice Award.

Mia, an attorney in Washington, was on the festival’s board of directors. Long story short: After 2½ months of flowers and chocolate and all-night phone calls, she had moved to Toronto. They were married the following year, eloping to Las Vegas, and now are the proud parents of children aged 4 and 2.

But that romance is only part of their story. David has been a paraplegic since an automobile accident when he was 19. The study of spinal-cord injuries was what propelled him to medical school at the University of British Columbia. He maintains a general practice today in Southern California, where the couple moved to pursue their passion in film at the UCLA film school — David studying screenwriting, Mia production.

“David doesn’t take setbacks,” said Mia, who continues to practice immigration law with many clients in film and the arts. “He just moves on.”

“The Morning After” is in 15 film festivals in 2013, this weekend including Bend; Carmel, Calif.; and Charlotte, N.C. Starring Kincaid Walker as Mae and Steve West as Frank, it is a multi-layered short film that David said “appeals to romantics. And I hope it’s a movie that any woman can relate to.”

The couple’s next project is one that David refers to as a “film noir date movie,” and one that Mia said may flush out her husband’s fascination with old Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movies. Romance! Intrigue! I can hardly wait!


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Walter: Lessons from the World’s Oldest People



“As I get older,” said filmmaker Hunter Weeks, “I realize how much elders are important to developing our perspective around what lies ahead, and the significance of big societal moments.

“When I first met Walter Breuning, I could feel a link to a very long time ago. And I loved being able to learn from listening to him.”

Bruening, of Great Falls, Mont., didn’t miss a day of the 20th century. Born in 1896, he was believed to be the world’s oldest man when he died in April 2011, aged 114 years, 6 months, 23 days. By that time, Bruening had spoken at length to Weeks and his wife and co-producer, Sarah Hall Weeks—inspiring the 84-minute documentary “Walter: Lessons from the World’s Oldest People.”

Hunter Weeks

Hunter Weeks

“Walter” made its world premiere on Friday at the IFC Center in New York, beginning a one-week run. Its next appearance is at the 10th annual BendFilm festival, where it will show at 10 a.m. Friday at the Cascades Theatrical Company and at 3 p.m. Saturday at McMenamins Old St. Francis School. Tickets are available online at or from the festival center in the Liberty Theatre on Wall Street.

In making “Walter,” Weeks interviewed a half-dozen “supercentenarians”—that is, people over the age of 110.

“I learned that living a good life boils down to simple pleasures and rolling with the punches,” said Weeks. “I was amazed that each of the people we interviewed didn’t have huge philosophical preachings: They’d simply share examples of basic ways they rolled through this life. They all seemed like extremely positive people and they taught me to think about the broader arc of life.

“Things change all the time, but our fundamental self slowly evolves. I think too often we all get caught up in trying to control this and speed it up. All of the ‘Supers’ were born in a much slower time, and therefore had a different kind of inner peace. I think we can all learn from that.”

Weeks, 36, was raised in Phoenix, Ariz., but now lives in Bozeman, Mont. “I’m sure not having a whole lot of connection to elders in my current stage of life helped drive this desire to spend more time with them,” he said. “Both sets of my grandparents have passed away, and my father died when I was younger.”

There were challenges in making “Walter,” said Weeks—not the least of which were the age of the subject. “We knew we might not have long to capture their stories,” he said. “We had to adjust the story in ways to accommodate their limited amount of time left.”

In order to allow the interview subjects and their families to feel relaxed during film production, Weeks said, the movie was shot with minimal equipment in a cinema verité style. The family of Besse Cooper, who died in December 2012 at the age of 116, “was very sensitive to the media,” Weeks said, “so we spent a lot of time assuring them we wanted to give the truest, most accurate depiction of this special moment in her life.”

Weeks’ previous movie was “Where the Yellowstone Goes,” about a month-long drift-boat trip down the longest undammed river in the contiguous 48 states. His next is another documentary, “Coming Clean,” shot in the Potomac River watershed. He is also in development on a narrative television series about bicycling.

“I try to keep making stories that will teach us about ourselves and give us insight to things that really matter,” he said. “I want people to realize the possibilities that exist for all of us.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sidney Rittenberg: “The Revolutionary”

Imagine an American investing the best years of his life in a history-altering revolution, in a country and culture that might be described as the polar opposite of his own.

This is not fiction. It is fact. And the epic tale of Sidney Rittenberg has been marvelously caught on film in “The Revolutionary” by film journalists Irv Drasnin, Don Sellers and Lucy Ostrander.

Its second showing at the 2012 BendFilm festival is at 10 a.m. today in the Oxford Hotel ballroom. An additional presentation at the Regal Cinemas may take place tomorrow.

Between 1946 and 1980 — beginning when he was just 25 years old — Sidney Rittenberg lived in China as an active and highly visible member of the Chinese Communist Party. Nearly half of those 34 years he spent imprisoned, in solitary confinement, suspected of being an imperialist spy.

Rittenberg today

Now 91 and a resident of Fox Island, Wash., near Tacoma, Rittenberg is now one of the nation’s leading experts in American-Chinese economic relationships. He consults with major corporations and frequently travels to modern China, where he is met with respect.

During a visit to Bend with Ostrander and Sellers, he spoke at length of his experiences — from his Second World War posting in China as a language specialist to his work with Mao Tse-tung, Chou En-lai and other Chinese leaders through the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

“Mao was one of history’s great leaders,” Rittenberg said. “He was also one of history’s great criminals.”

Mao signs Sid’s “Little Red Book”

In the late 1940s — at the time of the Long March — Rittenberg lived in the fabled Caves of Yan’an with the fomenters of the Communist revolution. At one time, he worked as a translator for Anna Louis Strong, an American author and labor organizer about whom Ostrander and Sellers produced a short documentary film, “Witness to Revolution,” in 1984.  Ostrander had interviewed Rittenberg about Strong during the making of that film.

Twenty years later, Sellers read a story in The New York Times about Rittenberg’s current work, and they got back in touch. It turned out that Rittenberg, teaching part-time at Pacific Lutheran University, had not seen “Witness to Revolution.”

That led to a reunion in early 2005. Sellers and Ostrander soon read Rittenberg’s book about his life in China, “The Man Who Stayed Behind” (with Amanda Bennett). In conversations over the next five years, together with longtime collaborator Drasnin, a CBS journalist and award-winning filmmaker, they built the 92-minute feature documentary. First shown in private screenings a year ago, it has met with international acclaim.

“We didn’t base the film on Sid’s book, but we used the book as research material,” Ostrander said. “The film was an independent look at his life in China during the Maoist years.

“And it was done under fairly rigorous journalistic guidelines. Irv (Dreslin) does not let his subject matter affect his journalistic ethics. In fact, Sid never saw this film until he saw it with 150 people in its first screening last October.”

Read more about “The Revolutionary” and future screenings at


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

BendFilm: The Maiden and the Princess

Filmmaker Ali Scher, 27, was apologetic as she hurried away from a late lunch to prepare for the showing of her short film, “The Maiden and the Princess.” “I’ve got to get all princessed up,” she said.

“The Maiden and the Princess” was Scher’s thesis production when she graduated from the University of Southern California film school in May 2011.

Starring film veterans David Anders and Julian Sands with newcomers Tallulah Wayman Harris and Lora Plattner, the 18-minute film ( is a parable told in fairy-tale style.

When little Emmy Adams (Harris) kisses a girl instead of a boy on the school playground, she must face the Grand High Council of Fairy Tale Rules and Standards. Headed by Sands (“Boxing Helena,” “A Room with a View”), the council places her in a “hetero-normative” fairy tale to send her down the “right” path in life.

Luckily for Emmy, she meets Hammond, a rogue narrator played by Anders (“Alias” and “Heroes”). “I like Hammond because he is frustrated by the rules, and he breaks them,” Scher said. “He tries to give people the story they need instead of the story they want.

“Hammond is a reflection of me. Emmy’s story isn’t necessarily my story, but it’s a little about me and (my girlfriend) Olivia. School is a confusing time for kids, especially for those of us who are more gender non-specific. Society doesn’t know where to put those girls.”

Scher directed the movie, which she co-wrote with frequent collaborator Joe Swanson.

“My resolve as a filmmaker is to make film for girls to create strong women who don’t think they have to be rock stars or fashion designers,” she said.

“The Maiden and the Princess” shows today at 6 p.m. at the Regal Old Mill
(before “Free Samples,” with Jesse Eisenberg) and Friday at 3:30 p.m. in a shorts block at the Tin Pan Theater.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Naked in the Kootenays

Many Americans have not heard of the massive mudslide that took place July 12, a week ago, in southeastern British Columbia.

Triggered by heavy rains, a piece of mountain broke from the alpine heights of the Purcell Wilderness. It slid down to the northeastern shore of Kootenay Lake, burying much of the remote hamlet of Johnson’s Landing and taking four lives in the process.

Kootenay mudslide (Vancouver Sun photo)

Three of the victims were from the same family — two young Florida women, ages 22 and 17, who were spending their summer on the lake with their divorced father. Their house was crushed and buried.

My good friend Randy Morse, an author, musician, artist and entrepreneur whom I’ve known since we tolerated the same high-school classes, lives on the opposite shore of Kootenay Lake, in the small town of Kaslo at the foot of the Selkirk Mountains.

“The devastation is unbelievable,” he told me earlier today. “Judging from the fault line above the current high point, it looks like more of the mountain could go at any moment.”

Randy is taking an active role in recovery efforts. “These are terrible times for many of our friends and neighbors who have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods,” he said. “I’m currently putting a lot of energy into organizing the Concert for Johnson’s Landing, slated for next Tuesday, the 24th.”

Yesterday, Morse told me, he had a special passenger in his boat — a Florida woman traveling to Johnson’s Landing to see the final resting place of her two daughters and her ex-husband. As they traveled, he said, the pair chimed together in an unlikely duet of “Let’s Get Naked in the Kootenays.”

While the 1,000 citizens of Kaslo are doing what they can to assist their neighbors, Randy said, there are only so many dollars to go around. He’s not normally one to do so, but he is asking friends to contribute to a Canadian Red Cross relief fund at

“Anyone who emails you, telling you they’ve made a contribution, will receive an mp3 emailed directly to them as a thank you!” he said. “Just pass on the addresses and I’ll send ‘em off.”

I will be at Morse’s home on Kootenay Lake, north of Nelson, for several days beginning August 7. If you know me personally, I’ll be glad to deliver relief donations and bring home your mp3 recording.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

3 Leg Torso brings gypsy tango to Bend

The ever-flamboyant Storm Large may be the headliner for Friday night’s Hullabaloo at NorthWest Crossing, but don’t sell 3 Leg Torso short.

My guess is that you may never have heard anything like this eclectic Portland band.

Many idiosyncratic musicians have been germinated in Portland’s creative soil. Consider, for instance, Pink Martini or Pépé and the Bottle Blondes. But none of them melds the high-energy Balkan gypsy tango that 3 Leg Torso prefers to call “world chamber music.”

There may in fact be no words to accurately describe this instrumental music. Said violinist and co-founder Béla Balogh: “When we started, we didn’t put any parameters on what we’d play.” That holds true today.

His co-founder, accordionist Courtney Von Drehle, came up with the name 3 Leg Torso. “We had one foot in modern chamber music, one foot in Eastern European music, and one foot in free improvisational music,” Balogh explained. “These all came together to form one large trunk.”

The band today: Von Drehle is in yellow, Balogh looks through the window.

Balogh and Von Drehle met in 1993 at a music store where Balogh worked, and soon wound up playing in a rock band together. But they discovered their musical passions lay elsewhere.

3 Leg Torso was born in 1996 as a trio, including a cello; later, drums and bass were added. Today the band includes standup bass player Mike Murphy and percussionists T.J. Arco and Gary Irvine.

Balogh and Von Drehle write all of the band’s original music. “Our music is influenced by many genres,” Balogh told me. “I come from a classical and Eastern European background, and I watched a lot of cartoons in my youth. Even sometimes I watch them now with my son.”

Collaborations with symphony orchestras have inspired a new passion of writing for larger ensembles, Balogh said. 3 Leg Torso has even performed with his father, Hungarian-born Lajos Balogh, a longtime symphony conductor at Portland’s Marylhurst University.

The band has produced three independent albums — most recently “Animals & Cannibals” in 2010. Despite its roots, it has at times been loosely compared to Argentine nuevo-tango originator Ástor Piazzolla and to the Kronos Quartet modern chamber ensemble.

Certainly, 3 Leg Torso has the inventory to do all of that. In addition to the violin, accordion, bass and drums, you may also hear the xylophone, vibraphone, trumpet and saxophone. “I’m starting to bring in my octave mandolin,” Balogh said. “And Courtney might add his slide guitar.”

You can watch the band perform on its web site — — or, better yet, live and free tomorrow night in Bend. 3 Leg Torso takes the stage at the NorthWest Crossing Neighborhood Center at 7 p.m., preceding Storm Large and following local Celtic-influenced favorite Five Pint Mary.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Deschutes + Hair of the Dog = Collage

An unusual beer-tasting dinner Friday night at Bend’s new Deschutes Brewery Public House introduced me to a whole new world.

It wasn’t so much the food prepared by Jeff Usinowicz, the founding chef of Deschutes’ Portland pub, although his pinot barrel-planked wild salmon and cocoa-braised ox tail were truly outstanding.

It was more about the beers: specifically, the uniquely crafted, small-batch beers that Deschutes ( and the tiny Hair of the Dog Brewery ( blended into a collaboration beer they call Collage.

If you’ve never heard of Hair of the Dog, don’t feel like you’re out of the loop. Although the brewery in Portland’s Inner Southeast has been around since 1995, founder Alan Sprints has kept his annual production down to just 15,000 barrels of its one-of-a-kind brews.

Compare that to Deschutes’ 220,000 barrels a year.

“Our mission has always been to expose beer lovers to something new and unusual,” Sprints told me. “We focus on high-alcohol beers that improve with barrel aging.”

Deschutes founder Gary Fish lauded his longtime friend: “He makes some of the most iconic beers anywhere, to say nothing of the Northwest.”

Two years ago, the brewery owners decided to collaborate in blending four of their highly distinctive beers. From Deschutes came The Dissident, a sour beer, and The Stoic, a Belgian quad. From Hair of the Dog came Fred and Adam. (That’s all: just Fred and Adam.)

The Dissident, a Flanders-style red ale with cherry overtones, and Adam, a Dortmund-style brew with chocolate insinuations, were aged in oak barrels that had formerly held Oregon pinot noir. The Stoic was aged in a rye whiskey barrel, while Fred, made with rye malt and a suggestion of coffee, was aged in a bourbon whiskey barrel.

Gary Fish

It took 24 months and more than 100 rounds of mixing and sampling to distinguish the flavors, both subtle and prominent. Then Fish, Sprints and the Deschutes brewing team went to work on mixing the perfect blend. “We expected something really good,” said Fish. “What we got is greater than the sum of its parts.”

“It was amazing how we blended all those different barrels together and you can still pick out individual characteristics from each barrel,” Sprints said. “It was probably the most complicated beer ever put together by any brewery.”

At the Bend dinner, 80 guests were able to individually taste each of the four component beers before sampling the masterpiece.

Assisted by Deschutes’ Bend chef, Katrina Spatrisano, Usinowicz prepared a six-course dinner, each course paired with a different brew.

The Dissident was a perfect match for the smoked Penn Cove mussels that accompanied poached Dungeness crab legs, served with baby greens.

The rye-flavored Stoic was great with the salmon course, served with shiitake mushrooms on gnocchi splashed with brown butter.

Fred’s bourbon accent added a rich flavor to Usinowicz’ self-described “pork and beans” — flageolet beans and bacon-wrapped boar sausage topped with hibiscus-rubbed duck confit.

Alan Sprints

Shredded ox tail, braised in cocoa for eight hours and served with a morel mushroom flan, was a marvelous match for Adam’s chocolate edge.

Surprisingly, the weakest course was the last before dessert: smoked rib-eye steak with cured lamb bacon, truffled potatoes and arugula salad. But it may have been overshadowed by its pairing with Collage.

The first of Deschutes’ new “Conflux Series” — No. 2 actually came out in 2011, a White IPA made together with Boulevard Brewing of Kansas City — Collage indeed inherits flavors from each component.

Deep caramel in color, it is at once tart and lightly fruity, with its rye and bourbon traits becoming more evident as the beer warms up a bit.

Collage is available at Deschutes brewpubs in very limited quantities, in 12-ounce bottles priced at $12 apiece with a three-bottle limit. A taster tray of the four blends and the final Collage (at 11.6% alcohol, a strong ale indeed) is being offered for $20.

In case you were wondering, dessert on Friday night was an Obsidian Stout chocolate cake with toffee gelato. It went as well with Collage and it did with Deschutes’ 12-year-old Jubel 2000 ale.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized